Mangere Arts Centre, Auckland

04/05/2017 - 13/05/2017

Production Details

In Transit is a New Zealand/African play that gives voice to the NZ Ngati African communities, many of whom are former refugees. The play is a collection of stories of flight from their homelands and the struggle to find their place in a new country.

It is based on the real-life experiences of African living in Aotearoa NZ with a thought provoking theme about intergenerational conflict.The play revolves around eight different characters of various backgrounds. The presentational style draws largely from African and Pacific theatre and performing arts traditions fusing the different art forms and theatrical concepts into a unique platform developed in a series of workshops over a 12-month period. 

Book through:

AHMED – Young man, early 20s, African/Pakeha - Fathe Tesfamariam
‘MZEE FIKIRA’  - Pakeha, actor, writer, 70s – Stuart Devenie
KIZITO – African, Ahmed’s father 50s, buisnessman – Sam Iosefo
GILLETTE – African, Supermarket detective, long time friend of Mzee  - Mohamed Abdilahi
NYOTE – African, political refugee – Tom Tedrow-Natoealofa
MAISHA – African, student, late teens. Loves singing – Sonaalofa Eliesa
SABABU – Maisha’s mother – Wanjiku Kiarie Sanderson
HAWA – African, woman, late 40s – Sandra Szvenyika

Ura Tabu Pacific Dancers:
Natalie Leitulagi Toevai
Ailini Manumu’a Alatini
Atina Tessa Venasio Lipa Patau
Jayne Sieni Siale Avaui Tupou Uni
Lomina Araitia
Laumanu Paseka
Vaiari Vaeau-Ivirangi  

Music ensemble:
Singer - Milly Grant-Koria
Guitar - Chrismas Ropati
Bass - Lealali Ieli Sale Leilua
Drums - Demetrius Savai'inaea
African Percussions - Alfdaniels Mabingo
African Percussions - Fellis McGuire
Keys - Poulima Salima

Production Team
Produced by Tala Pasifika Productions in Association with African Connection Aeotearoa
Justine Simei-Barton, Producer
Kubé Jones-Neill, Production Manager,
Valeria Edwards, Media and Public Relations
Stage Manager. Kolopa Simei-Barton 

Director, Justine Simei-Barton
Assistant Director, Wanjiku Kiarie-Sanderson
Choreographers: Alfdaniels Mabingo, Charlene Tedrow, and Ura Tabu Dancers
Light and Sound Design: Mark De’Jong 
Visual Art & Design:  Paul Simei-Barton
Vocalist: Milly Grant-Koria

Justine Simei-Barton, Director, is an accomplished producer and director of theatre, films and television, and a long-time collaborator with performing artists of many ethnicities.  She brings to this production, a wealth of experience in intercultural performing arts in New Zealand and the Pacific region.

“I always knew there were similarities and connections between African and Pacific traditional performing arts.  The challenge of fusing the two to create a new and unique platform with high artistic merit is one that I embrace whole-heartedly, and am very pleased with the outcome.”

Wanjiku Kiarie Sandersonwrote In Transit as a tribute to the late NZ actor, Martyn Sanderson, and his life-long involvement with African theatre, and with the African communities in Auckland and Wellington. She has spent the last seven years bringing In Transit to the stage.

I am grateful to Wakanyote Nguguna, who co-wrote the first draft of the script, and Jenny Davis, Dramaturg for the 4th draft of the script. I would also like to acknowledge the individuals who shared their stories of transition with me, and now, with the world.

Alfdaniels Mabingo, Dance Master and Choreographer, is a dance researcher, scholar, writer, performer and educator. He is currently pursuing a PhD in Dance Studies at the National Institute of Creative Arts and Industries, at the University of Auckland.Mabingo holds an MA in Dance Education (New York University), and MA in Performing Arts and a BA in dance degrees, both from Makerere University. He is serving as an Assistant Lecturer of Dance in the Department of Performing Arts and Film, Makerere University. Previously, he served as Adjunct Faculty of African Dances and Intercultural Dance in the Department of Performing Arts and Professions at New York University and Professional Teaching Fellow of East African Dances in the Dance Studies Program at the University of Auckland. Mabingo has also worked on community outreach dance programs in Uganda, Rwanda, and South Sudan.

Charlene Tedrow – Choreographer
harlene Tedrow is currently Head of Pacific Studies at the Pacific Institute of Performing Arts (PIPA) Best Training. Charlene brings a rich experience and passion to her position. Charlene has an advanced level of skill in a range of Pacific Dance forms including Samoan, Tahitian, Cook Island and Hawaiian.

As Founder, Director and Choreographer of dance company- Ura Tabu Pacific Dance, Charlene has choreographed and performed works in a number of National and International festivals.

Poulima Salima, Composer and Music Director
Poulima Salima is the founder and director of Salima Music Ltd. Poulima is a contemporary musical practitioner; a Composer, Choral/Orchestral Conductor, Music teacher and Pianist. Poulima specialises in composing music scores for theatre, choreographed dance and film. He holds a BMus and a Bachelor of Music Composition, with honours, from the University of Auckland. Salima is a registered piano teacher for the Royal Schools and Trinity College of Music London.

Theatre ,

1 hour and 30min

Moving drama shows we are all in transit

Review by Dione Joseph 08th May 2017

In Transit by Wanjiku Kiarie Sanderson is a moving tribute to the late NZ actor, Martyn Sanderson. However, this powerful work of theatre is also much more.

The performance begins with seven dancers accompanied by the commanding vocals of Milly Grant-Koria. The movements are slow, deliberate and exquisite and blend Pasifika and African influences to tell of a young man in search of himself.

However, In Transit differs from traditional coming-of-age stories. [More]


Make a comment

Entertainingly revealing

Review by Nik Smythe 07th May 2017

A good many New Zealanders pride ourselves on being a definitively multicultural nation – political point-scoring over the perceived impact of immigration notwithstanding.  Our towns and cities are today home to peoples from all across the Pacific, from the islands to the Asian continent, as well as Britain, Europe and America.

Our African population is comparatively fairly small.  It’s difficult to get an exact numbers from the internet; they tend to be included in ‘other’ census statistics, and where specific numbers are found they range from point two percent (between 9 and 10 thousand) to over 54 thousand from South Africa alone.  Possibly the difference is between those holding residency and fully-fledged citizens (?)

Playwright Wanjiku Kiarie Sanderson has spent seven years developing In Transit, culminating in this premiere production by Africa Pasifika Production and Tala Pasifika Productions.  Myriad performance, cultural and narrative strands are expertly interwoven under the directorship of Justine Simei-Barton, in what I understand to be the world’s first New Zealand African-Pasifika collaboration (correct me if I’m wrong). 

Designer Paul Simei-Barton’s simple set consists of three mobile sections of metal fencing, representing both incarceration and community division, with only a couple of items of furniture besides.  To our left sits the consummate band comprising guitar, bass, keys and three drummers, fronted by the commanding strength of outstanding vocalist Milly Grant-Koria whose opening solo a-capella song fills the sizeable space of the Mangere Arts Centre theatre with soulful emotion. 

The musical overlays and interludes performed throughout are frequently accompanied by a septet of accomplished young female dancers whose expressive movements, while perhaps not strictly traditional, seem entirely authentic as choreographed by Alfdaniels Mabingo and Charlene Tedrow.  Their ensemble recitals encompass both Pacific and African cultural forms including a powerful climactic representation of Maori who, as tangata whenua are essentially hosts to the first-and-second generation migrants portrayed, albeit superseded in official terms by colonial bureaucracy. 

Central to the narrative is NZ-born Ahmed (Fathe Tesfamarium), a young drama graduate and aspiring writer, looking to capture and share the stories of his parent’s generation. As the play begins Ahmed is somewhat estranged from his own father Kizito (Sam Iosefo), who is as concerned and disappointed with his son’s life choices as Ahmed is frustrated by what he perceives to be his father’s unenlightened attachment to the old ways.

Other people’s ordeals are revealed as the play ensues, such as Hawa (Sandra Szvenyika), who fled to NZ as a refugee after her children were abducted, presumably for slavery; Gillette (Mohammed Abdilahi), a long-term immigrant in the habit of turning any given conversation into a politically-charged debate decrying colonial oppression; and Nyote (Tom Tedrow-Natoelofa), who found political asylum in this country after being chased out of his own for dissident activities.

Playwright Kiarie Sanderson also plays Sababu, a Sudanese refugee who struggles forlornly to impress upon her typically rebellious 17 year-old daughter Maisha (Sonaalofa Eleisa) the critical importance of academic qualifications and the patience required to achieve them, if she is to have any chance at a better life.  Maisha has her own dubious ideas to fast-track herself to the material trappings of Western glamour, ultimately prompting Sababu to reveal one of the most emotionally impactful backstories in the production. 

In Transit was written in tribute to Kiarie Sanderson’s late husband and legendary Kiwi screen actor and writer Martyn Sanderson. Himself a champion for the peoples of Africa throughout his life, he is affectionately portrayed in the play by Stuart Devenie under the auspicious title of ‘Mzee Fikira’, meaning uncle and/or wise elder and mentor. Presumably his and the other characters’ stories are based on actual events. Indeed, a prevalent sense of truth helps its relatability to an unversed audience, as do a number of expositional dialogue exchanges. 

The overarching theme of the convoluted narrative is a universal one, exploring the minefield of communication difficulties between cultures and between generations.  Both the older migrants and their offspring feel the other has no idea, despite not actively seeking to understand where the other is coming from.  As they do start to listen to each other, they begin to understand and a more helpful and effective kind of communication begins to take place. 

Being the multi-layered and multi-stylistic concoction of viewpoints and concepts that it is, attempting to achieve as comprehensive an overview of arguments relating to the inherent issues as possible, it is a struggle to absorb every specific detail on a single watch.  However, having entered as a novice to the worries and concerns of our local African community, I leave thoroughly entertained and with a definite sense of greater understanding. 

Note: Due to the extraordinarily large-scale company I’ve not named every individual cast and crew member in the review text. 
Please refer to the production page [click the show title above]. 


Make a comment

Wellingon City Council
Aotearoa Gaming Trust
Creative NZ
Auckland City Council